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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Tyler

Seljuk Empire: A Postscript to Thursday's Constantinople talk for JW3

I thought it might be of interest to some folk if I wrote a small piece about the Seljuk Turks, whom we were talking about in yesterday's zoom lecture - especially as I was caught and bowled over a question regarding Baghdad!


As we said yesterday, the Seljuks, like all other Turkic clans/tribes originated in Central Asia and migrated westwards into the Byzantine Empire in the late 11th century. They never captured Constantinople and were themselves eventually overthrown by another Eastern invasion, this time of the Mongols.


The Seljuk clan took its name from its original leader, Seljuk. At its height the Seljuk Empire, having established its capital at Baghdad (my ignorance of yesterday) in 1055 gained control over a wide area of the Middle East from western Anatolia (modern day Turkey) to the Hindu Kush.


Along the way they became heavily influenced by Persian culture (and introduced it into Anatolia). At the beginning of the Crusading Period they took on the Western Crusaders, especially during The First Crusade. The great leader of Islamic forces facing Richard the Lionheart and other Western leaders during the Third Crusade was, however, Saladin, who was not a Turk but a Kurd. Another story for another day!


The Seljuk dominance of the region was, however, a fairly brief moment in time as the Empire's dates are normally given as 1037 to 1194. The Empire was then constantly hacked away by internal dissension and external pressure until it was finally brought to a close by the Mongols in the mid thirteenth century..


The new kids on the block, as far as the Greeks in Constantinople were concerned, was the rise to power of a new Turkic clan, the Ottoman Turks. They had first emerged as a powerful force under the Seljuks. It was the Ottomans, and not the Seljuks, nor for that matter the Mongols, who were finally to destroy the great city of Constantinople in May 1453, and to replace the Byzantine Empire with the Ottoman.

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